In reply to Tory candidate Sarah Atherton’s recent letter titled ‘Only the Tories will stand up for Wales’. There is so much irony in that statement it’s difficult to know where to start.
Sarah trots out the usual Tory line that Wales is too poor and too small to be a successful Independent nation and delights in telling us that we would be incapable of running our own affairs.
This doing Wales down attitude should surprise no one, the Tory party called for a re run of the 1997 referendum establishing our own Assembly and they continued to oppose Wales having any powers for 6 years following that. Rather than standing up for us, this seems to suggest they’d much prefer to keep Wales quiet.
Atherton then attempts to convince us that Wales is too poor because of ‘the maths’. She refers to the fiscal gap. So is Wales too poor? There are 3 key issues to consider.
In Wales, recent figures estimate the fiscal gap is £13.7b and falling but that figure comes with a number of caveats.
Firstly, the figure is an estimate of what the fiscal gap is as part of the Union, not what it would be in an Independent Wales. This is key because an Independent Wales would spend significantly less in a number of different areas. We would not be spending Welsh tax payers money on England only projects such as HS2 and London's Cross Rail for instance as we do now, we would also spend significantly less on defence and nothing at all on vanity projects such as refurbishing the Houses of Parliament. We would of course be free to set our own spending priorities which would be significantly different to those dictated to us by Tories in Westminster.
Secondly, there is much debate about what the true Welsh tax base actually is because accurate figures are not currently available. Many companies who operate in both Wales and England are often registered in England for tax purposes, meaning we do not currently have accurate data as regards what taxes are raised in Wales.
All in all, any fiscal gap in an Independent Wales would be substantially less than the estimate used in the figure Atherton quotes. Additionally, having full control over all economic levers such as borrowing and taxation means we will finally have the economic tools we need to build the Welsh economy. The truth is that our economy has been kept on its knees by successive UK Governments who have never prioritised our interests but instead been more interested in exploiting our resources. We literally can’t afford not to be Independent.
Thirdly and crucially, it is simply a fact that most countries run at a deficit, aside from a few oil rich middle eastern nations, this is a perfectly normal situation. For instance, any fiscal gap in Wales is dwarfed by the fiscal gap of the UK, which stood at a whopping £167b at its highest in 2010. Does Sarah Atherton think all UK nations including England are too poor to be Independent because of the fiscal gap? I doubt it, that’s just a view reserved for Wales I’m sure.
So is Wales too small to be Independent? This is nonsense and another empty line trotted out to every country who ever dared entertain their Independence. Is Iceland with a population of 340,000 people too small? Is Luxembourg too small? New Zealand, Norway? Finland? Ireland? Of course not. Many thriving Independent nations have a smaller population than Wales and many fewer resources. There are in fact 18 Independent nations in Europe with a smaller population than Wales.
Does Sarah Atherton believe people in Wales are too stupid to be Independent? She’s keen to suggest bizarrely that the Welsh population would flee across the border should Wales gain her Independence because in her opinion only England can run decent public services and offer a good quality of life. Let’s deal with that ridiculous idea head on, there is nothing intrinsic about the people of Wales that means we’re any less capable of running our own affairs than any other nation anywhere in the world. To suggest otherwise is just insulting.
To conclude, can anyone seriously take constitutional or economic advice from the Tory party who are currently trying suspend democracy in London to force through a no deal Brexit? The party who inflicted the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credit and zero hours contracts on Welsh communities? The party who are led by a racist, misogynist, homophobic buffoon who isn’t fit for office?
I for one would much rather see the people of Wales chart our own course. My message to Sarah Atherton and the Tories is that we can't afford not to be Independent, we’re not too small and we’re not too stupid to run our own country. The irony and arrogance of such suggestions given the reign of chaos by Sarah Atherton’s party across the border is staggering.